BY MARIA CASPANI
At the height of the coronavirus pandemic in New York in April, doctor Michael D’Urso was scrambling to treat the apparently ever-growing number of patients being taken to the emergency room where he worked.
In Miami, his identical twin brother Dennis, also an emergency room doctor, listened to Michael’s experiences on the frontlines, providing support and encouragement, while preparing for the attack to strike his own condition.
For a while, it appeared Florida would avoid New York’s fate as the epicenter of a pandemic. But in July, confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths started to skyrocket in Sunshine State.
For the 31-year-old twins, the roles were reversed.
“Now with the focus in Miami, the relationship has basically turned around, I called it with my experiences and the latest treatment protocols we’re using,” Dennis told Reuters.
They talk a few times a week, whenever their schedule allows. Michael is now the one to encourage, advise, and quell his brother’s frustration with people’s contempt for social distancing rules and masked mandates.
There have been bad days. Those days Dennis said he felt overwhelmed by the severity of the illness and the sheer number of patients, many of whom needed intubation. Staff at Jackson Memorial Hospital, where Dennis works, have also faced an increase in cardiac arrests linked to COVID-19.
While the number of COVID-19 cases in New York City reached 66,000 new cases per week in April, Florida’s maximum weekly increase was 7,500 in the same month, according to a Reuters tally.
In July, however, Florida struggled to contain the spread of the virus, recording more than 80,000 new cases in a week. In New York City, cases fell to around 5,000 per week in the same month.
Interactive United States Case and Death Tracking Chart
SPRINTING RATE MARATHON
Hospitals across the United States are scrambling to cope with a virus that shows little sign of abating, six months after the start of the pandemic.
“You can see the effects of the time, just the stress of working so hard and attracting new resources to continue caring for these patients,” Dennis said. “It turned into a marathon and we ran it at an accelerated pace.”
There was one agonizing trend that Dennis couldn’t fully squeeze from his brother’s experience in New York: the high number of younger, healthy patients flooding the emergency room when the flare hit Miami.
One case that stuck with him was that of an otherwise healthy COVID-19 patient in late quarantine. Despite the best efforts of the staff to treat him, the patient’s condition rapidly deteriorated. He died after going into cardiac arrest.
“To think that we have to tell this family who is not allowed to enter the hospital for their own safety that now this person, who previously had no medical problem, has succumbed to this disease despite all the treatments. we have in the ER was absolutely shocking, ”said Dennis.
BACK TO NORMAL’
In New York City, life is now moving at a more manageable pace for Michael, who works at New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital.
He said the number of critically ill coronavirus patients he tended to have dropped since April and that medical professionals have learned some of the hard lessons of the first months of the pandemic, which have enabled them to better manage disease.
And the simple fact that COVID-19 is no longer the topic of perennial conversation among colleagues, family and friends has been a source of relief.
“Just seeing the numbers go down and not having all the conversations every shift is about whether this patient has coronavirus and if we’re going to save him has relieved a lot of the stress,” said Michael.
Yet as New York City crawls back to its new normal with more people returning to offices and schools due to the recovery in September, the young doctor called for caution.
“Even though the numbers are small, they are still not zero. So even if we want to get back to normal, we still have to remember that even in New York we are still facing a pandemic, ”he said.